|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 778–7,379 1h 10m – 1h 20m|
|Bus Bangkok - Chiang Mai 9h 30m – 13h|
|Train Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 883–1,862 10h 17m – 14h 20m|
|Flight Don Mueang Airport - Chiang Mai ฿ 649–1,470 1h 5m – 1h 25m|
Bangkok and Chiang Mai are two famous cities in Thailand, with many attractive tourist destinations and distinctive cultural characteristics of each locality. Traveling between these two cities is also very convenient, with many transportation options for tourists. In this article, we will explore the options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional means of transportation to advanced and most convenient methods.
Tips for Traveling to Northern Thailand: Getting There and Getting Around
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is a city of infinite charm nestled in a northern basin of woodlands and mountains. The city is adorned with gorgeous ancient wats and chedis, some of which date back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries are nestled in the hills and mountains, while colorful markets burst with OTOP products and flavorsome Northern Thai cuisine, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and there are endless opportunities to have unforgettable experiences, whether you are on a short 2-day visit or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has something for everyone, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene for partygoers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai Transportation: Everything You Need to Know
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is both easy and convenient. The city is well-connected to major provincial centers of Thailand via numerous buses. If you are traveling from the capital city, you can take Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai, which will bring you as far as Lampang. From Lampang, you will need to switch to Route 11 Lampang-Chiang Mai, which will take you all the way to your destination. Alternatively, you can take the northern line of the state railway of Thailand, which covers a 751 km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The duration of the journey depends on the mode of transport you choose, but typically takes between 9 and 14 hours.back to menu ↑
Tips for a Comfortable Bus Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a convenient, affordable, and comfortable option for the long journey. Chiang Mai-bound buses depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with many companies such as Bangkok Busline and Siam FirstNew Viriya providing departures throughout the day. Most buses leave after 8 pm and arrive early in the morning the next day.
However, during peak seasons such as Thai festivals like Songkran in April or Khao/Ok Phansa in July/October, it is advisable to book in advance. The bus prices vary depending on the level of comfort, with VIP coaches being the most comfortable option, offering 24 seats and ample space for both your legs and elbows, starting at 800 THB. However, even the cheapest buses from Bangkok (starting at 500 THB) are comfortable enough to sleep through the journey. Mochit Bus Terminal may seem enormous, but there is plenty of staff to assist passengers in finding their way. You will be greeted at the entrance and directed to the appropriate platform.
Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a simple, affordable, and comfortable way to make the journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with many companies (such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, etc.) offering departures throughout the day. Most buses leave after 8 PM and arrive early in the morning the next day. During peak seasons, such as Thai festivals like Songkran in April or Khao/Ok Phansa in July/October, it is wise to book in advance. The cost of the bus ticket varies depending on the level of comfort, but even the cheapest buses (from 500 THB) provide enough comfort for a good night’s sleep. If you can afford to pay extra, VIP coaches with 24 seats (from 800 THB) provide even more space for your legs and elbows.
If you are concerned about navigating the enormous Mochit Bus Terminal, don’t worry. There are plenty of staff available to help passengers find their way. You will be greeted right at the entrance and directed to the appropriate platform.back to menu ↑
The Pros and Cons of Taking the Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thailand experience, but tickets sell quickly, especially for lower berths, so it’s best to book well in advance. The journey takes about 12 hours, which is longer than the bus journey, but it is significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are equipped with seats that fold out into bunk beds, with both fan and AC options available for the second-class sleepers. For a more luxurious experience, consider the first-class single sleeper, which offers more privacy but costs over 2000 THB per person. There are also second-class fan seats available for about 600-650 THB, but it’s recommended to choose a fan sleeper for an additional 100 THB or opt for AC for an additional 200 THB.
The train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai offers stunning views of mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, making a daytime journey a viable option for travelers who want to enjoy the scenery.
Note that food vendors frequently patrol the train carriages, so snacks and refreshments are readily available, but selling alcoholic beverages is illegal on the train.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Private Taxi: A Complete Guide
You can leave directly from your hotel in Bangkok to Chiang Mai any time of the day by opting for a private taxi. This can be a great option for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter costs THB 13,200 and takes around 9 hours to travel between the two cities. The roads are generally smooth, and there are gas stations with clean toilets and convenience stores along the way. Additionally, the scenery is fantastic, providing an enjoyable ride.back to menu ↑
The Cheapest and Fastest Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Plane
Considering the fact that multiple low-cost carriers offer tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for as low as THB1000 and can get you to your destination in just 1.5 hours, flying between the two cities may be a more appealing option than spending an entire night traveling overland.
Thai Lion Air, a subsidiary of Lion Air based in Indonesia, offers up to 10 round-trip flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai each day. Depending on the date and time of your preferred flight, airfares start from THB1000 and can go up. Popular travel periods tend to sell out quickly, but even a few days before your intended travel date, you can still find deals for under THB2000. The ticket price includes 15 kg of checked luggage and 7 kg of cabin luggage. Flights depart from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport as early as 8:55 am and as late as 9:50 pm, with eight other options available throughout the day.
Lion Air is located at Don Mueang International Airport in the north of Bangkok. To reach the airport, you can take the airport shuttle buses A1 or A2. A1 departs from Morchit bus terminal, while A2 starts at Victory Monument, stopping at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by A1. The travel time can range from 60 to 80 minutes depending on traffic. Alternatively, there are commuter trains available between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, which take approximately 50 minutes and operate from 4:20 am until 10:25 pm. The trains are a reliable option for transportation.
Chiang Mai International Airport serves as a major gateway to Northern Thailand and is one of the country’s four busiest airports, operating daily domestic and international flights to and from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and other destinations. The airport is conveniently located just about two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a cost-effective and time-saving option. Many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, but it’s essential to book them in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to the city center. Although the fare may seem a bit high due to the distance, it is still relatively affordable (around THB150).
Pro tip: Kan Air, a domestic airline, uses Chiang Mai Airport as its hub and serves some of the most beautiful destinations in Northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. Consider taking a flight to these towns as the roads from Chiang Mai to Pai and from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son can be notoriously winding and difficult to navigate for some travelers.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions are located within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are a convenient mode of transportation and can be rented from almost every guesthouse. However, before embarking on your exploration, make sure to check the brakes, as the condition of the city fleet may leave something to be desired. The cost of renting a bike with a fixed gear ranges from THB50 to THB100.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is an excellent option for those seeking more freedom to explore. Rental shops are abundant throughout the city, and be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit. However, when riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak, inexperienced riders should exercise extra caution due to the winding road and breathtaking views.
Songthaews are big trucks with benches in the back that are ideal for trips within the city (fare ranges from THB20 to THB40 per ride). The red and white ones are recommended for trips within the city, while the yellow ones will take you to neighboring Northern provinces. Songthaews are typically the cheapest way to get around, but it may require a bit of negotiation.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews, and their prices, noise, pollution, and safety record do not make them a practical option for every ride. Consider chartering one for a unique experience.
Taxis are available everywhere in the city, but unlike the meter taxis in Bangkok, none of them use meters. Be sure to negotiate the fare before beginning the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
Over the past few years, the cost of accommodations in Chiang Mai has increased, making it almost impossible to find a decent option for THB300. Nowadays, a budget room in a guesthouse within the walls of the Old City typically costs around THB1000. However, there are other good options available as well.
For instance, you can search for pleasant budget accommodations located just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with its bars and restaurants, is also easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. If you have your own transportation, lodgings located outside the city may be a good choice for city veterans or those seeking a more relaxed countryside feel.back to menu ↑
While visiting Chiang Mai, it’s a good idea to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. You will undoubtedly visit plenty of temples, go hiking or trekking, and perhaps even try white-water rafting or rock climbing. However, consider adding some zest to your stay by enrolling in a massage class to learn the basics of Thai massage. Volunteering at one of the elephant camps, such as Elephant Nature Park, is also a fantastic opportunity. Additionally, seeing how the colorful Chiang Mai parasols are made and strolling down Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evening, when it transforms into the epicenter of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching, are other unique experiences to consider.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is famous for its vibrant festivals, and it’s worth planning your trip to participate in some of them. The Flower Festival, held during the first weekend of February, transforms the city into a blossoming garden. Songkran, which takes place on April 12-14, is a wet and wild water festival where revelers splash water on each other (and passersby) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, one of the most stunning Thai festivals, is known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float into the night sky over the city, creating an unforgettable scene.back to menu ↑
Road trip to Chiang Mai: Tips for an unforgettable journey
There are two main routes for driving from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The first and shorter route involves driving to Nakhon Sawan, turning left before the city, and taking highway number 1. You’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang, where you can stop for pizza at the Riverside restaurant. However, it’s better to avoid the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai for riding elephants, as there are more ethical ways to interact with them. This route covers a total distance of about 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer, but takes you through smaller roads surrounded by large forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan, take highway 117 to Phitsanulok, and continue on highway 11 to Lampang and Chiang Mai. Along the way, you can turn right towards Phetchaboon, known as the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ where you can relax at the resorts or visit Khao Koh mountain. Alternatively, turn left to visit the historical park in Sukhothai, where you can rent a bicycle and explore the well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins.
If you prefer to travel by bus, it will take about 10 hours, while the train takes around 14 hours. Overnight travel can save you the cost of one night in a hotel. While many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, taking a road trip is a beautiful experience, and we recommend flying back, especially if you’re headed south to the islands.back to menu ↑
The best spots for panoramic views of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a city with countless attractions, and even if you stay for several months, you won’t be able to see them all. In this guide, we’ll highlight some lesser-known things to do in addition to the popular tourist activities. But first, let’s start with the must-do activities recommended by locals. It’s said that you must try three things in Chiang Mai: Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with a variety of ingredients, visit Boo Sang to see the colorful handmade umbrellas, and visit Wat Doi Suthep, a temple located on a mountain.
Wat Doi Suthep is less crowded on weekdays and offers stunning views of the golden chedi on sunny days. If you take one of the red songtaew taxis, be aware that the fare for the trip down the mountain is higher than the trip up.
Khao Soi is a noodle dish with thin yellow curry, similar to the Massaman style, and is a popular soup-like specialty. It’s mixed with crispy and boiled egg noodles and typically served with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage. Those who can’t handle spicy food should avoid the oil-fried ground chilies. Coconut milk is often used to balance the spiciness. Khao Soi can be ordered with chicken, beef, or even a vegetarian option.
Boo Sang, a village near San Pathong, has been producing and painting paper umbrellas/parasols for over 200 years. It’s a fascinating process, and at the umbrella factory near the junction, you can observe every step of the production. The Sa paper is made from the mulberry tree’s bark, and they can even paint fantastic designs on your mobile phone case, clothes, or any item you bring. The village of Baan Tawai, near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang, but it’s a great place to find souvenirs and wooden furniture at lower prices than the night bazaar in the city.
The Chinese-style Wororot Market is located near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, there is a large street market inside the old city, which starts at 7 p.m. and closes at midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) is held on Wualai Road. The night bazaar is open every day in the early afternoon and closes at night. You can find a variety of items there, but be prepared to negotiate prices. Don’t expect the Louis-Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans to be authentic.
Many shops sell the same things, so you can ask for a price and then move on to another shop. There is a Chinese Money Changer shop about 50 meters from Tha Phae Road on the right side of the night bazaar street that usually offers the best exchange rates in town. If you reach the end of the night bazaar, cross the junction at Phantip Plaza and continue for another 300 meters. Behind the big hotel on the left side, you’ll find the 3D street art museum ‘Art in Paradise.’ Bring your camera and step into the 300+ paintings on the ground, walls, and ceiling to capture some amazing or funny pictures.
If you are an animal lover and want to make a positive impact, consider visiting Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. Although the park can be pricey, the experience of seeing elephants without hooks, chains, or fences is priceless. You can even swim in the river with these majestic creatures and brush their backs with a large broom. The park offers day trips and volunteer opportunities that you won’t forget.
A short distance from the park, you’ll find white-water and bamboo rafting shops. While bamboo rafting is a relaxing activity, white-water rafting is more challenging, especially after heavy rainfalls in the mountains.
For a unique swimming experience, check out the hidden gem of Grand Canyon Chiang Mai. The water is clear and clean, and the area is almost empty during the weekdays. Be cautious when jumping from the walls into the water and don’t forget to visit the recently opened coffee shop at the entrance.
If you’re comfortable driving a scooter or renting a car, try the loop of CM – Hang Dong – Samoeng – Mae Rim – CM. On weekdays, the roads are virtually traffic-free, and you’ll pass by stunning viewpoints, a hidden cave, a large coffee shop, strawberry fields, and a plethora of activities like bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-carriage, and paintball. While on the loop, you can also drive up the mountain and explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own. Remember to wear a helmet, drive carefully, and never drink and drive!back to menu ↑
Best coffee shops in Chiang Mai: For caffeine lovers
Chiang Mai is renowned for its diverse culinary scene, with an abundance of pubs and restaurants catering to every palate. Here are some of our personal favorites:
- Taste from Heaven, located within the old city, is an excellent vegetarian restaurant and one of the best in the north. They offer cooking classes as well.
- The Dukes, situated on the opposite side of the river between Narawat and the old iron bridge, serves the largest pizza in town along with mouthwatering spare ribs.
- For stunningly presented dishes, head to Mix Bar and Restaurant at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1.
- Smoothie Blues, on the corner of Soi 6 (opposite Tesco Express), is a small shop that serves the best breakfast in town. Be careful not to get addicted to their mango “smoothie blues.”
- Sumo Sushi, located in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, offers Japanese food with a Thai twist and is reasonably priced. The beer factory is just a few meters away and has a wide selection of imported beers. A Japanese Yakiniku Grill can also be found further down the street on Soi 9.
- Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a must-visit spot for its delicious food and live music performances. The owner is a great source of information about Muay Thai boxing.
- Khao-Mao Khao-Fang, formerly known as the Rainforest Restaurant, is situated on Road 3044 and is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Chiang Mai. If you prefer a quieter environment, sit near the lake as the waterfall on the other side can be quite loud after a while. They also serve food inside the air-conditioned coffee shop.
Finding Inner Peace in Chiang Mai’s Temples
There are numerous temples located in Chiang Mai, apart from Wat Doi Suthep on the mountain. Within the old city, there is Wat Phra Sing, while Wat U-Mong, featuring caves and a sizable fish pond, is located near Chiang Mai University. Another beautiful temple, Wat Doi Kham, situated near the night safari, is relatively unknown to most tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city from this location.back to menu ↑
Souvenir Shopping in Chiang Mai: Unique Gifts to Bring Home
Central Festival is a massive new shopping mall situated along the superhighway. Robinson Airport Plaza is also a great option and easily accessible. However, Maya tends to be crowded with students from the nearby university.
If you plan on staying in the city for an extended period, it is recommended that you rent a place instead of opting for hotels or guest houses. You can find air-conditioned studios available for monthly rent at around 100 Euros, but condominiums located in the city or Nimman Hemmin area can be much more expensive. Renting a house in one of the housing estates is a better option as they are cheaper to rent and come with additional facilities such as security, pool, gym, and clubhouse.
Please be aware that the Zoo and the Night Safari are charging double entrance fees to tourists. We advise against supporting such behavior and suggest avoiding such places.
Most areas in the city are mapped on Google Streetview, enabling you to explore the city virtually.
If you have the time, you might also want to consider visiting Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai has two beautiful temples, Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, and Baan Dam, known as the Black House. Both are worth a visit, but it takes around four hours by car to get there. If you plan on staying for one night in Chiang Rai, the Le Meridien Hotel offers a fantastic Sunday brunch.